Before Thanksgiving a girlfriend’s significant other (SO) had a devastating stroke. He’s been in ICU for much of that time but was moved to a regular hospital room less than a week ago. Yesterday a woman from the hospital called and told her he wouldn’t get any better than he is now, and the hospital wants him gone by Monday. The woman from the hospital suggested my girlfriend’s options were to put him in an assisted living facility, or take him home with 24-hour care and diapers for the rest of his life. He’s in his 50’s.
This is the same hospital that wouldn’t let her into ICU or confer with her about his medical condition because they weren’t married.
This is an unthinkable situation, but one the gay community has been dealing with forever. If you’re living with someone, do you know your legal rights if you or your SO becomes seriously injured, ill or dies? Don’t wait until you’re walking in my girlfriend’s shoes to educate yourself.
This post does not constitute legal advice. I am passing along things I’ve researched and gleaned from talking to another girlfriend about the legal steps she and her SO have already taken.
According to the Pew Research Center, since 2007, the number of cohabiting adults—choosing to live together instead of getting married—over age 50 has risen 75 percent, up from 7.2 million to 8.9 million. Divorced women are in 55% of these relationships.
Since women over 50 are the wealthiest demographic in history, if you have no plans to marry, then it’s imperative for you and your significant other to seek legal counsel and get your unmarried house in order… Now!
- Consult an attorney, together.
- Take steps to protect your individual and shared assets. Some attorneys and financial planners call it a “Living Together Agreement.”
- Assign one another your medical power of attorney (if you’re not comfortable with that, spell out exactly who you want to have your power of attorney) as well as the right for each of you to discuss your SO’s healthcare issues with his/her doctors.
- Include your wishes about end of life care and organ donation.
- If one or both of you don’t have insurance, know what your financial alternatives are such as Medicaid and social services.
- Know one another’s social security number and computer and mobile device passwords.
- Designate your SO as your I.C.E. (in case of emergency) contact with all of your doctors, and add the word “ICE” to their name on your cellphone. EMS and police know to look there. Regardless of whether we’re married or single, we should all add an ICE contact on our cellphone.
- If your cellphone has a “Health” section, fill it out. List all of your medications, allergies, doctor contacts, ICE info, etc.
Take a lesson from both of my girlfriends. Don’t leave your significant other literally holding the financial bag—with their hands tied behind their back—for your medical, longterm care, burial and any debts or lawsuits that may arise.
As one of my girlfriends said, “We are all going to die, so plan for it while you’re well and happy and feeling immortal.”